Confusion rented the air Saturday, after claims emerged that President Muhammadu Buhari may have approved the immediate prosecution of the President of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Melvin Pinnick, over an alleged multi-billion naira fraud in the football house.
It was also alleged that government, through the Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP) headed by Okoi Obono-Obla, had equally placed a travel ban on Pinnick, after the prosecution order was handed down when the Obono-Obla-headed panel presented its preliminary report to Buhari.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was also alleged to have furnished Buhari with a report on the NFF, in which it detailed the outcome of its investigation, which was said to be in sync with what Obono-Obla’s panel had submitted to the president.
EFCC’s acting spokesperson, Tony Orilade, confirmed that the agency is investigating two different cases involving the NFF, but declined to give details of the dramatis personae.
“We are investigating two cases involving the NFF. However, I can’t say for now who is involved and who is not involved. Give me till Monday and I shall get details to brief you, sir,” Orilade said.
The commission, which on July 7, 2018, said it was set to investigate and take necessary actions against Pinnick, and three other top board members of the federation, denied knowledge of any travel ban placed on the embattled NFF president.
However, reacting to the alleged travel ban placed on him during a live radio programme, Pinnick said he never received such restriction, just as he added that no money received from the Sports Ministry for the prosecution of Russia 2018 World Cup was unaccounted for. “I do not think the money released for the World Cup was unaccounted for. So, it is unfounded and rather unfortunate for a major tabloid to have written this about me. My life is football and I have got no travel ban,” he said.
Pinnick’s denial was followed swiftly with a statement by the NFF, where it also described the news item as outright falsehood. It stated that “The attention of the Nigeria Football Federation has been drawn to a news item circulating in a section of the media saying a directive has been issued by President Muhammadu Buhari that the President of NFF, Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick be prosecuted, and that Pinnick has also been issued with a travel ban.
“The NFF President, who is also the First Vice President of the Confederation of African Football, has not received any such message from any of the agencies mentioned by the writer and has also never been placed on travel ban. Mr. Pinnick was in Accra, Ghana on January 4th, 2019 for a meeting with NFF and CAF partners, AITEO, and returned to Nigeria the same day. He has been going about his lawful official and private activities unhindered.
“The NFF published its audited account in two major national newspapers (ThisDay and Daily Trust) on December 20th, 2018, and in another major newspaper (Vanguard) on December 25th, 2018. Anyone interested in the federation’s financial transactions can refer to those pages.
“All incomes into the NFF from the Federal Government, FIFA and CAF from 2014 till now have been correctly recorded and reflected in our accounts. The NFF received nothing like the N59b that the fake news reporters have been hawking. It is laughable,” the statement stated.
“Before appointment into FIFA committees, Mr. Amaju and the two Nigerians in there passed rigorous integrity and eligibility tests. FIFA and CAF have not reported to anyone that their money is missing, and both organisations have been doing auditing of monies given to the NFF. Two years ago, FIFA handed the NFF a clean bill of health on financial management. Our accounts are audited by the same company that audits FIFA – PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“Our lawyers will take up the matter of the fake news item with the newspaper company that first published it in its online edition. But we urge other media companies and outlets to be painstaking in verification of their news items.
“We also urge our sponsors and partners, football stakeholders in Nigeria, Africa and the world at large, and other media institutions to disregard the said news report as its another attempt by the mob against the NFF to tarnish the image of the Federation and its leadership for whatever gains.”